HERSHEY, PA – Tomas Kundratek, seen here at the 2013 Outdoor Classic, scored twice in Hershey’s 4-2 win over Syracuse tonight (Kyle Mace – Sweetest Hockey on Earth)
Friday night it was the battle of candy bars north of the Pennsylvania border. The chocolate covered Hershey Bears battled the Crunch of Syracuse. Tomas Kundratek returned to the Hershey lineup for the first time since the Outdoor Classic on January 20, and impacted the match with two goals including the game-winner.
Boyd Kane started the scoring, and Peter LeBlanc tallied a highlight reel insurance marker in the third period to help his team’s charge towards a staggering 4-1 win.
If there is anything more impressive than beating a division leading opponent, it’s beating a division leading opponent in their own barn by three goals.
The Bears wasted little time to jump start a three game in as many nights weekend with a dominating first period. Hershey quickly started the match on an 8-0 shot run and held the Crunch without a shot on Philipp Grubauer until after the frame’s midway mark.
Although Syracuse’s goaltender Cedrick Desjardins looked crisp early on, the Bears’ seventh shot on goal was their first charm of the night. Dmitry Orlov, stationed at the point received a slap pass from teammate Casey Wellman. Boyd Kane stood in front of the net and tipped a shot perfectly past Desjardins to give his club a 1-0 lead.
The Captain’s 14th tally of the season came with 10:42 remaining in the first. Wellman’s point was his first of the campaign when wearing the jersey number 39.
Although Hershey’s forecheck looked furious early and constantly forced the Crunch on their heals, Jean-Francois Jacques tied the game with only 2:52 remaining on the first period’s clock. After a failed clear attempt in the defensive zone, Mike Angelidis made an acrobatic play to knock the puck down and keep it in Grubauer’s kitchen. On the rebound on an Angelidis shot, Jacques rolled the puck into the back of the cage to deadlock the game at 1-1.
The tie score held for over 20 minutes until a man affectionately known as “Kundy” capitalized with under a minute left in the middle period. Four-on-four hockey is always entertaining no matter which two teams are playing due to the amount of open ice. Tomas Kundratek used the open ice to his advantage to score the game-winning goal.
After Kane forced a turnover in the offensive corner boards, he sent a cross-ice pass to Kundratek, standing uncontested in the high-slot. He loaded and fired a bullet into the net to give Hershey their second lead of the night with 38.2 seconds remaining in the second period.
Hershey entered second intermission in possession of a 2-1 lead over the Crunch. It was the first time all season the Bears had a lead going into intermission at the Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter.
Entering the third stanza, the Chocolate and White quickly looked to add an insurance marker and open the lead. Rather than calling State Farm Insurance, Peter LeBlanc came to the rescue and performed an unbelievable, individual effort to make the game 3-1.
On radio, Scott Stuccio referenced an overtime game-winning goal scored by Tomas Kundratek back on January 8 in Bridgeport. That night, Kundratek raced from his defensive end, dangled around the Sound Tigers’ defense and scored a jaw-dropping breakaway goal to send his club to victory. Nearly three months later, LeBlanc performed a similar play starting from the defensive end.
After taking the puck away near the face off dots near his own netminder, LeBlanc sprinted down ice and into the offensive third. He cut away from the net and roofed a shot from a sharp angle, surprising the entire arena with his tenth goal of the season. Suddenly with 9:54 left in regulation, Syracuse was in a hole, down by two goals.
Into the final minutes, the Bears did an excellent job in keeping puck possession and cycling in the offensive end, preventing a Syracuse breakout and extra attacker until the final minute. Kundratek with under ten seconds remaining found the empty net to cap a 4-1 win on the road.
Despite the outcome, due to the results of other games around the American Hockey League, the Syracuse Crunch became the first team to clinch a postseason spot. Minutes later, the Binghamton Senators, Providence Bruins and Springfield Falcons all punched their ticket to the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. Before Friday there were eight playoff spots up for grabs in the Eastern Conference. Suddenly, there are now only four spots remaining with three weeks left in the 2012-13 season.